30 before 30

After the ridiculously unsettled, stressful and pretty abysmal 7 months I’ve had and now I can draw a line under things and move on with my life, I’m looking to inject so fun, positivity and focus back into my life. Something positive to work towards (not just getting back on my feet) and something happy to pursue.  No pressure, stress or agenda, just ideas for things I’ve not experienced yet (or enough) and would very much like to before I reach the ripe old age of 30 in about 22 months time. Some are goals of stability, some to give something back to others, whereas others are just silly lusts for life all the while hopefully raising a good amount of money for charities close to my heart.

I’d like to think I’d be able to get many of my friends and family to share in these experiences and journeys with me too. I’m going to need all the help I can get!!

1) Stable job
2) Stable relationship
3) Debt free
4) Travel outside of Europe
5) Go to a festival
6) Interail round Europe – something I want to do to celebrate turning 30
7) Have some writing published
8) Sky dive
9) Tough mudder or similar
10) 10k run event
11) Big tattoo (sorry mum!)
12) See foos. Again. (greedy I know but you can never have too much Grohl!)
13) Do regular volunteer work
14) Treat myself to a new car
15) Visit a nudist beach
16) Take family for a really nice thank you meal
17) Do a lingerie shoot
18) Go to the Edinburgh tattoo
19) Do a last minute spontaneous trip alone
20) Host a dinner party (subtext here being I need my own place first, probably the hardest challenge of all 30)
21) Go camping
22) Go to Harry potter world
23) Go to ireland trip, see gaelic ceildh band
24) Start dancing again
25) Learn to give a proper massage
26) Be able to read a book in a week
27) Get a Pet
28) Fall in love
29) Make love (actual steamy, hot, intense, connected love making, not sex. Something I’ve never done before)
30) Enjoy a bullshit free birthday

The Full Story

On Monday, the police reached the decision to drop all charges on the grounds there wasn’t sufficient circumstantial evidence which would lead to an 85% chance of conviction in court, which is the minimum they require.  Despite all the evidence they did have and despite the police believing me. Since then I’ve been deliberating whether to take to my laptop and tell the full story of what happened that night – something I’ve so far only divulged to a hand-full of people.  In lieu of proper counselling (which the police have kindly said they would sort for me) writing this blog is pretty much the only form of catharsis I have. So. Here’s my full story.

Friday 13th November, I had my car packed ready to start a new job and a new life, leaving behind recent dramas of bad jobs, bad housemates, ready to stick two fingers up at the world and prove myself in the job of my dreams.  This job as restaurant manager would have not only made my career but also sorted out my finances for good; allowing me to make the big changes and live the life I wanted to.  In the weeks leading up to this date, after I’d accepted the job, the main advice people had given me was “Don’t fuck it up”….all the drive up there, this resonated in my head.

Before leaving I was told I’d be contacted by the current Operations /Restaurant Manager (I’ll refer to him as OM) who was due to leave the following week; I’d be shadowing him for my first week, training me and he’d be taking me out for dinner that first night to welcome to me to the hotel and show me around Ambleside – rather a lovely way to start a new job! I felt welcome and part of the team before I’d even left home! So, I left about 2pm and landed at the hotel about 4pm, to be staying in one of the hotel rooms for my first week until a space in staff accommodation was available.  Once I got there, I was given a quick tour around and met a few of the other staff before settling back into my room, freshening up for dinner and reading over my menus and training notes.  About 6.45pm there was a knock on the door and OM introduced himself, apologised for the delay.  He said he’d quickly freshen up and book a taxi.  A few minutes later he knocked at my door again; the taxi was here and a bottle of beer was waiting for me.  I went down, drank about half the beer and got in the taxi to town.

We headed straight to a little Italian restaurant, which was heaving.  We had a wait of about half an hour at the bar so had a gin and tonic before being seated.  3 courses of dinner, sharing a bottle of wine followed.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude and given I’ve worked with chefs for 12 years I hardly have the mind of an angel – but there’s certainly an appropriateness required.  The conversation that flowed made me feel very uncomfortable; heavily laden with sexual innuendos, heavily flirty.  No matter how hard I tried to keep things as unassuming as possible, he managed to twist whatever I said into something creepy.  If this was a normal situation I would have said things weren’t appropriate, and looking back maybe I should have.  But given I’d just moved to a new job I didn’t want to rock the boat and seem like I was being difficult and stuck up from the offset.  I also kept in mind, I’d only have to work with him for the next week and then I’d probably never have to see him again.

The meal ended and although I was tired, full and ready for bed, OM insisted on going for another drink.  So we headed to a bar round the corner where a shocking open mic night was playing out.  On the way round I was discussing the on-goings of my last job, the unnecessary drama that played out.  He felt this was an opportunity to try and hug me, in some form of comfort – but my story wouldn’t have warranted comfort from any of my closest family or friends, let alone a stranger who was my manager for the following week.  I shrugged him off and asked for him to not touch me again.  Reluctantly, we continued for another drink.  The bar was packed and I really wasn’t in the mood – I just wanted to get back to the hotel so I could get a good sleep ahead of my first day.  We sat close to the bar on a small tall table on our own.  The level of heavy sexually orientated conversation from his side continued, and I was getting fed up of it, so I was being pretty short – something I really don’t like being.  At one point my shirt dress folded open more than it should due to how I was sat, revealing the inner slight edge of the cup of my bra.  He saw that as an opportunity to lean over the table and grab at my boob, joking about how heavily padded it was – definitely not appropriate behaviour.  Again, I told him to get off me.

I sparked up conversation with a local lady who was there with her husband and friend.  Her husbands friend was wearing a Liverpool top so I was talking to them about that, and conversation about my new chapter in life followed.  At this point OM got protective and almost possessive, not happy I wasn’t giving him my full attention and not happy I was speaking with others (“look what you’ve done, you’ll never get rid of them now”).  The locals I was speaking to tried to engage him in conversation, instead he stood up to go to the bar and made a reference to me being his girlfriend.  I couldn’t quite believe what I’d heard.  My new friends took one look at me, one look at him and another look at me.  They asked to check “you’re not his girlfriend are you? that’s not right is it?”.  I explained I’d just met him and his behaviour had been making me feel on edge all evening.  Instantly the lady I was talking to gave me her number and asked me to message her when I got back home safe and also to get in touch for a coffee and to show me around – make sure I had some friend’s outside of work.  After he returned we swiftly went as he was on night manager duty at the hotel.  As we left the bar I text a few of my friends, including the guy I was dating to let them know how relieved I was to be going back to the hotel, because OM had been such a creep.

Walking down the street, again he tried to hug me and again he was told to get off.  Getting into the taxi, he tried to kiss me and again he was told no.  Conversation on the way back was solely between him and the taxi driver.  I was tired and starting to be apprehensive about the new job and the move I’d made.  Getting back to the hotel, he insisted on showing me to my hotel room, wanting more wine.  He showed me to my door and I did not let him in.  He joked, a recurring joke he’d made throughout the night, that it didn’t matter if I locked my door as he had access to the master key. What a way to make a girl feel safe! Feeling very awkward and uneasy after turning him away from my door, I took my make-up and jewellery off and got into bed how I did back then, which was naked.  Tired from travelling and the new situation, I fell straight asleep.

In the morning I woke, and straight away I could tell something was wrong.  I woke up to a ridiculous amount of missed calls of my guy I was dating, wondering if I’d got back to the hotel safely – I ALWAYS wake up when he calls, so he’d been panicking something had happened.  I went to the bathroom, put on my shirt dress and got back into bed to give him a call.  It was then, the penny started to drop.  The toilet lid and seat where both up when I got there, as if a man had used it – I have never left a toilet in such a way.  I then found a condom on the side.  In it’s packet, unused. But I don’t carry condoms and it definitely hadn’t been there before.  I felt so tingly and uncomfortable and could smell the stench of a rubber condom on me; I’m sensitive to them so I could instantly tell.  My stomach somersaulted, I felt sick, and not hungover.

It was obvious what had happened but I gave OM one chance to confess.  I text, asking what had gone on “nothing” was the original response, then with more digging and after drawing his attention to the condom, the toilet and “I didn’t consent to this” more details followed which didn’t add up and then a hurried offer to meet me in the office to discuss things.  I thought I was going to throw up.  He’d done something terrible to me and was trying to convince me I’d let it happen.  Without any hesitation, I phoned the police and pulled a dresser in front of the door.

Waiting for the police to arrive was the most agonising 30 minutes of my life.  Pacing the room, going over all of the details in my head.  I felt rotten, a lot worse than I had in a long long time, in no way correlating with the amount I’d drunk the night before (1 beer, 1/2 bottle of wine with dinner, 2 gin and tonics all with a hearty 3 course meal in the middle…..and it takes A LOT more than that to make me feel that way).  I tried to cry and couldn’t.  I kept replaying the night in my head.  On so so so many levels I wouldn’t have let this happen

a) happily dating someone amazing back home.  Even if I’m dating I’m 100% loyal, wouldn’t have dreamed hook up with anyone else

b) I’ve moved away from drama, why would I jump straight into bed with someone I’d just met on my first night, jeopardise the fantastic opportunity I’d been given, bringing drama to my door again?

c) professionally – I’d never involve myself with anyone from work, let alone before I’d even started work there – what impression would that make!?

d) Bottom line – He was really unattractive.  No….just no

11.00am I should have been starting my first shift of my new job. The police were with me at about 10.30am, taking initial reports, taking some of my clothes and bedding for investigation as well as a sample of my wee and the tissues I’d used to wipe.  I was told to get my things together, pack them into my car ready for later as I wouldn’t be able to stay back at the hotel that night – I’d have to go back home where I’d only left 20 hours earlier. I was taken to the local police station and was told I’d have to wait there until a safe centre in Preston was ready to conduct all of the examinations on me.  I was in so much shock, I could barely react, almost making light of some things; I just shut down.

8 hours I waited at the police station.  8 long, agonising hours.  Not able to shower, brush my hair, put make-up on.  Nothing.  I was walking, talking evidence.  I felt horrific.  Inside and out.  The “hangover” was getting worse and unlike anything I’ve ever felt; I knew something wasn’t right, it wasn’t just alcohol I’d consumed, I’d been drugged.  If it hadn’t been the guy I was dating’s dad’s birthday he would have been right there with me, but as it stood, I was alone.  I didn’t want to tell anyone until  I knew exactly what was going on; and what would I tell them anyway!? It felt like I’d lost a battle before it had even begun, like I can’t be let loose out of sight for 24 hours without something horrific happening.  Those 8 hours in the police station were the most horrible 8 hours of my life; I’ll never forget how lonely I was, how much I craved a hug, a cry, any form of humanity.  Because I lacked this, I closed myself off from everything, probably why I’ve still not reacted and still struggling with my emotions. Sadly, my phone charger was in my car, 2 hours into this wait, my phone died.  Nothing but the posters in the police station and the odd stranger who came in to pass the time.  It’s not like I was in the mood for talking either.  All I could do was replay everything, over and over and over in my head; it was torture.

Eventually my time came to be taken by a female police officer to Preston safe centre.  It was about 8.00pm.  I felt so sorry for the poor woman taking me.  I had no conversation at all.  Shocked, numb, confused, still feeling rough as anything, just focusing on getting these horrid examinations out of the way.  The two ladies at the safe centre could not have been more lovely, kind, and gentle.  They made the whole process so much easier.  Normal questions answered about medical and sex history, swabs taken of my nose, mouth, neck, groin.  I had a mouthwash to spit back and return.  I had the horrid internal examinations; swabs, pictures.  “do you want me to do the back passage too?” is something I never want to be asked again. I had to put on a loose gown, allowing the doctor to fold back one area at a time, keeping the rest concealed while she checked for bruising and marks.  I was given an injection for hepatitis and a selection of tablets for HIV that make you feel horrific.  Finally, bloods were taken.  As I got dressed, my dressing from the blood test bled and I nearly fainted.  I think the adrenaline of the day had worn off and as the last of the personal examinations were over, it had all started to drop into place.

Waiting after my examination to make sure everything had been done properly, I phoned my mum from the police officers phone.  It was 10pm.  12 hours after I’d reported it.  I’d been on my own this entire time.  Just hearing a friendly, familiar voice broke me.  The hotel had made arrangements with a taxi for me to go all the way back home – they didn’t want me driving in the state I was in. Once back at the hotel, I was informed the police of the bail conditions OM had been put under, I’d be summoned to give a video statement over the next week.  I had time to hurriedly pack a bag from the belongings in my car, frantically grabbing at things in the rain and dark (when I got home I realised I’d packed my laptop but no charger, 3 jumpers, no bottoms, no knickers and still no phone charger, you’ve got to laugh!) Before I knew it my Lake District adventure was over before it had begun, and I was on my way home.

In shock at how rapidly the job of my dreams had unravelled before my eyes.  I’d moved to the Lakes to get away from the drama and within 24 hours of leaving home, look what had happened!?

It was gone midnight when I got home.  Everything was so familiar, but at the same time it all seemed so surreal and life as I knew it had changed.  Craving a hug, and a cry I dumped my things in my room and popped my head round my mum and dads ajar door.  Lights on, TV on, both of them sat upright in bed, fast asleep; I didn’t have the heart to wake them.  Broken, lonely, numb and feeling pretty empty I climbed into bed.

The only comfort I had that day was the hot water bottle and flask of hot chocolate my mum had left for me.

“Don’t fuck it up” still resonating with me….

As deflating as it is there won’t be a conviction – which feels like could only have been possible if the whole thing was caught on camera and I was covered in his sperm, I’m glad I can move on with my life.  I don’t have a horrid painful trial to go through which wouldn’t even guarantee conviction.  The police are being amazing helping me put counselling into place, because they believe me and can see how much this has changed me; which is positive. I’m grateful that because I was spiked I don’t remember anything and other than a pair of bruised bum cheeks I wasn’t hurt

Two things this has taught me though, is how strong I am – I’ve really surprised myself in how I’ve dealt with it.  And also just how many bloody amazing people I am ridiculously lucky to have in my life.  I wouldn’t have this strength without them.

Now to move on…

 

MHAW16 – relationships

With the theme for mental health awareness week being relationships, I’m taking this opportunity to look at those not just in my life now but have shaped my mental health over the years

Boyfriends
Over the 8 years I’ve suffered with depression I’ve had 2 long term relationships, each lasting around 2-2.5 years. Throughout both relationships my mental health spiralled. Both failed to see me as an equal part of the partnership, neither saw me as a girlfriend or treated me like one, but treated me as a commodity. There was very little comprise in either relationship with each of the others demons being seen as priority over my health and well being, with me often being left not being understood or even heard. When you have one bad relationship you do everything you can to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again and the next guy will be different, but over the course of my second relationship it became apparent how shockingly similar they were. As soon as both relationships ended it was glaringly obvious how much my mental health lifted, no longer being in the shackles, being held back, unrecognised and unappreciated. Now ensuring I find someone who actually makes me feel good about myself and appreciates me and respects me warts and all seems like an impossible task, but I understand how important it is to get it right. I’m not having my head wobbling off from someone else again. I’ve worked far too hard on my mental health to risk jeopardising it letting another wrongun into my life

Doctors
My relationship with my doctors and health care has been non existent to say the least. They’re supposed to be the person you can confide it, open up to in a nonjudged situation in order to get help. Because I’ve moved house so much I’ve not had one steady doctor who knows my full story. Even when Ive visited my local GP surgery. due to staffing issues they don’t have a steady doctor I can see but a locum who float in to cover and as such the last 6 visits I’ve made I have had a different doctor every time. This wouldn’t be such a problem if it was physical problems I was speaking to them about. But having to open up, give my back story and explain where I’m at each and every time is not only frustrating but exhausting. It also means my care has been slap dash, each doctor giving me the first treatment that comes to mind rather than looking at what’s been tried so far and actually knowing what works for me and what doesn’t. And do you know what, a lot of doctors still don’t know how to deal with mental health issues. Over the last 4 years I’ve also struggled with the level of counselling cbt I’ve been put forward for. With my sessions either being cancelled last minute knocking my confidence and recovery or other treatments have been rushed for the sake of making up a few extra minutes of over run time and even changed therapists half way through treatment due to maternity leave. All very disruptive and unnecessary. They say mental health is better to be talked about, something I fully agree with but having to unnecessarily open up to so many different people is unbelievably difficult. It’s not the doctor’s fault, I know that. But equally it makes me reluctant to go to them about anything at all.

Family
We’re not a close family at all. But one thing I am proud of is that in me being so open about my mental health and my attack, it’s meant my family have opened up and we’re now all talking a bit more. Particularly my relationship with my mum which was pretty nonexistent about 6 years ago after a massive falling out, now we’re closer than ever. Living back at home at the age of 28 is less than ideal and isn’t something I’d boast about if I had an online dating profile, but for now its what’s needed. Just having people around, not necessarily to open up to, but just company I can trust is making the world of difference. If you’d told me a few years ago I’d be sat in most nights binge watching Grace and Frankie with mum and a bottle of wine or two putting the world to rights, I would never have believed you. So I guess that’s a huge silver lining in all of this. I’m very glad to have a family I can fall back on when needed. They drive me insane a lot of the time, but they’re the only one I’ve got and I guess they’ll do. In all seriousness, I’d be lost without their support. 

friendships
My friendships are unusual in a have a lot of scattered friends, none of whom really know each other. I can’t just get them all in one room or on a night out and catch up with them all at once, which would be a hell of a lot easier, especially while Im out of work and don’t have any money to be able to do anything when I see them. Despite this shortcoming, my friends are the best.
Each and every single time I get knocked down, I have a parade of cheerleaders picking me back up. After I left my last job in March, a dear friend I’d not seen properly in about a year took me out drinking pretty much for a full week, knowing that I needed to let off steam and they were going to make sure I did it semi-responsibly and get home safe. I’ve got those friends who I just nip to, unannounced, demand cups of tea and cuddles with their menagerie of fur babies. I’ve got the friends I don’t see for years but check up on me in a text most days. I’ve also got the friends I see once every few years and it’s like we were never apart. As much as I love the latter type, I always feel like my life is in some utter turmoil everytime I see them. One day, I’ll get there and be able to say everything is fine. It’s probably a little while off yet, but for the moment I’m quite happy with them feeding me all the tea, cake and bourbon while they listen to me rant. There’s also the friends who I have met over the last few months, and have been hugely accepting, non-judgemental and ultimately supportive in everything is going through. Each and everyone of my friends are beautiful understanding people. I wish I could give them all a medal for putting up with my shit.

Strangers
This might seem an odd one, how can I have a relationship with a stranger? But. I can. On the night I was attacked I started talking to a group of locals in the pub, making friends on my first night in the Lake District. The female in the group could instantly pick up that something wasn’t right and the guy who later attacked me was behaving very oddly and I was obviously very uncomfortable. As a complete stranger, she gave me her number and insisted I text her when I got back safe to the hotel and also that I meet up with her the following week, promising that I wouldn’t be alone and she’d show me round. She’s also been the only witness to give evidence regarding my side of the police case. Imagine meeting someone and within 24 hours having to give an account of the night because of such a horrid crime? She’s been an absolute angel, not just on the night being a good samaritain and not just in how she’s handled the case. At least once every few weeks I’ll get a text off her checking on me and we’re now even Facebook friends. What an absolute gem! It’s people like this who make the world go round.

My situation right now may have been caused by one or two key vile people I’ve crossed paths with, but it’s all of the other wonderful human beings I am lucky enough to have in my life that have given me faith in humanity and have kept me moving forwards. I cannot thank them enough. Talking is crucial to anyone dealing with a mental health issue and our relationships are our means to be heard.

Go give someone a hug!!!

How it’s shaped me

In my last more anecdotal post in April, I quite excitedly talked about the new house I was moving into with 5 other girls.  Well, as with a lot of things, I spoke too soon.  The following day, I went to the house again to sign the tenancy agreement and pay the deposit.  It was only on then it transpired this house wasn’t what it seemed the day before. The landlord had failed to mention the day before that he lived and worked at the house as well.  A 40 something year old man with a group of 20 something girls. A man who had a partner and new born baby in a house 200 yards from this shared house. Alarm bells started ringing and I backed out of the situation straight away.  As such, with only 24 hours to go before I had to be out of the house share I was in, I stubbornly moved into social service housing.  Determined to stay in Manchester where there are greater opportunities for jobs and friends for support, instead of admitting defeat and moving back to the parents to get stabilised (again).

I was thinking this morning, why that house share situation with the landlord bothered me so much and if I would have reacted in such a way before.  The answer is I don’t think I would have. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve reluctantly admitted that living back with my folks for a wee while is the best thing for me at the minute.  Living in that social service house with no work of a temporary or permanent nature coming through hit me hard.  With nothing to keep me busy, distract me or any progress with job/finances I hit a wall and felt the black dog had finally caught up with me.  Self-harm, self-medicating and seeking comfort/closeness in the wrong places only made me feel worse.  This has lead me to write this post, wondering what else has changed within me and how this whole 7 month (and counting…) long fiasco has shaped me.

  • Its because of November I find it difficult to trust new people and to trust and take for granted that others are being genuine
  • It’s because of November, instead of a ‘gaydar’ I now have a ‘creepdar’, meaning I’m pretty much suspicious of everyone, reading ulterior motives into a lot of things people do or say
  • Its because of November I’ve had to leave 2 jobs – the first in the Lakes what was to be a dream job and that of a new exciting chapter in my life.  The second a venue who treated me horribly and showed no signs of compassion or basic humanity when I was shaken from a near second attack only months after the first
  • It is because of November, my finances are screwed.  Having not held down a steady job since October things are pretty dia, something I know will have a knock-on impact on my future i.e. buying a new car, a house, a business, a loan, or even just a much needed holiday.
  • It is because of November I have been in such a poor state of mind I have ignored bills and debts.  I have had to fight bailiffs off my parent’s door and to keep my car
  • It is because of November I am STILL struggling to find work, trying to change industry, having to try and explain to potential new employers my current situation and why my last 2 jobs both lasted such a short time
  • It is  because of November I am seeking solace in sex but finding I’m emotionally numb and I’m doing it in lieu of a more serious relationship which as much as I crave; the thought terrifies me, being so vulnerable with someone (and when do you tell someone new to your life about everything that’s gone on without scaring them!?)
  • It is because of November I am now over sensitive/hyper sensitivity in other situations, possibly seeing things others wouldn’t have picked up (like the creepy landlord living with the young girls) and sometimes finding myself reading into things that aren’t necessarily there
  • It is because of November I have a severe lack in confidence coming from the sex thing, and also the difficulties I’m facing in finding a job.  Changing industries is hard
  • It is because of November I now find it difficult to go places on my own, something I really do my best to hide
  • It is because of November I now feel anxious and over-aware walking anywhere on my own in the dark
  • It is because of November I have developed a mild agoraphobia when I’m on my own. If I spend too long in one place, it becomes difficult to leave the security of that room/building – something that isn’t an issue when I’m with someone else
  • It is because of November my mood swings are a lot more frequent and pronounced – going from hyper ‘non stop talking and excitable like a puppy’ to really quiet, awkward and uncomfortable, to welling up, to being snappy and everything in between, all within the space of half an hour.  I’m an emotional lottery
  • It is because of November people in my life have fallen by the way side, not being able to handle what I’ve been through
  • It is because of November I have dark and twisted thoughts that I never experienced before; in dreams at night, day dreams when I’m on my own, and when I’m watching porn
  • It is because of November, I am 28 years old with no money, no job and back living at my parents, treading water with my mental health and really trying to make the best decisions possible for moving on

On of the plus side though, there is one silver lining.  It is because of November, I have realised how lucky I am to have such a fucking fantastic support network around me.  95% of my relationships with friends and family are closer than ever before.  Even people I’ve met over the last couple of months have firmly taken me under their wings and pretty much adopted me.  Everyone rallying round making sure I’m fed, watered, wined, hugged, making sure I get out the house, inviting me to different events, and ultimately being awesome people to talk to.  These people all deserve medals.

I’m hoping once my counselling finally starts, some of these knots will be unravelled and the result of me won’t have changed too much from the original

 

“what were you wearing when you were sexually assaulted?”

https://www.the-pool.com/news-views/latest-news/2016/19/what-were-you-wearing-when-you-were-sexually-assaulted-

“what kind of an inappropriate question is that?” you’re probably thinking right now. And you’d be right. This article even admits so. Yet they still printed it, and as a follower of the pool for interesting articles and product reviews, there it popped up in my timeline about 9.00pm last night. There I was happily minding my own business on my sofa, watching TV with my family. To be floored by gut-wrenching, stomach churning anxiety, panic, fear and the thought I was going to be sick all just at the sight of the headline. I didn’t dare open the article of fear it would exacerbate this internal earthquake but I gave it the benefit of the doubt, something positive might come from it. But no, it’s a vile article showing images of clothes from sexual assaults. Particularly harrowing is the black background they’re on. I don’t know why it was written, the authors intentions or even who the intended reader would be. It seems to have failed to put themselves in the shoes of a victim who might be reading it. Because who in the right mind would be interested in something with such a headline if they haven’t been attacked. I thought it might have offered support, compassion or even empowerment to women (and indeed men) who have been through such a harrowing and life changing ordeal. But the article was none of these things; it was cold, soulless and seeing these victims as entities to be investigated, not human beings.

All things considered in my own situation I’ve done extremely well to keep my head on my shoulders throughout my own ordeal. Don’t get me wrong there are always ups and downs, days that I struggle but I’ve always been able to handle them. This week has been tough. Any day now I’ll be waiting to hear from the police news about their next move. As the accused attackers bail was up last week, I’m literally biting my nails on the edge of my seat to find out if a) his bail will be extended for a fifth time to allow further investigation b) the case is going to court or c) the case is being dropped completely. Its tough enough the ordeal has been going on so long, its such a lengthy process. The longer this is going on the worse I seem to get when unexpected triggers such as the word “rape” being used out of context, people discussing it in groups and indeed things in the media like this article do appear. Coincidentally, 10th may is also the date that will stick in my mind for years. The date in 2014 I put myself into hospital with a cocktail of my favourite wine and my anti-depressants. It’s not getting easier, it’s getting so much harder. Yesterday, that article completely floored me. There I am trying to be strong, keeping my head threading water until this is all over and someone posts a mindless and seemingly pointless article and it’s all over my timeline. I know I can hide it, which is what I have done. But once the damage is done in just reading that headline its too late and unfortunately I can’t hide, block and unfollow my own memories.

Bottom line, I’m hurt, shaken and struggling to see the motive the author of this article had. One thing that’s come to light through my own ordeal is just how many others can tell similar stories. I can imagine all will have a reaction not to dissimilar from my own to such an article.

And for the record. Black skinny jeans. Vintage flat calf boots. White shirt dress. Camel trench coat.

The big decision…..(hospitality, it’s been a pleasure)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in food and I’ve always had this yearning to help others. Growing up, my earliest memories aren’t of childhood holidays, school or my best friends, but of the birthday cakes I had over the years, the recipes I used to write, the things I used to bake in school and with my grandparents. I’ve also always been extremely empathetic, thoughtful, selfless and caring; going out of my way to help others often when noone else would help, being hospitable when guests stayed, going out of my way to look after others and do good deeds and I remember the lengths I went to ensuring my mums German pen-pals enjoyed their stay in our back garden when I was a kid. Given all this it’s hardly surprising I’ve fallen into hospitality as a career.

It’s been a 12 year love affair. I can’t dismiss it completely; I’ve worked in some of the most gorgeous hotels with some incredible chefs and managers, eaten and drunk some amazing food, learnt a ridiculous amount, met some amazing people, grown in confidence and learnt a lot about myself. But, like a lot of love affairs, this too is ending with a bitter taste in the mouth. It’s often bad enough being in a one sided relationship and not getting anything back, and in the grand scheme of things a relationship is relatively easy to change in comparison to this. 12 long years I’ve given my heart and soul to this industry, an unfailing passion for looking after others, for food, drink and good service; but the industry hasn’t been kind and it hasn’t given anything back in return for my loyalty. Strong reliable honest and genuine people in this industry are hard to come by, particularly females dominated in a male orientated world and from today it will be lacking in one more.

12 years of long shifts, late nights, no breaks, no food, poor pay, misconceptions about bonuses and incentives, broken promises, lies, bullies, verbal abuse. I’ve missed birthdays, family occasions, Christmas’, New Years Eves, I’ve been reduced to tears on my own birthday by bridezillas, I left university to pursue this as a career (much to the dismay of my family who didn’t speak to me for quite some time), I’ve been made redundant, been accused of theft as an easy way to get rid of me as there was no other grounds to do so just so I could be replaced with a family member to the business, I’ve been taken advantage of in most ways you can think of, and most recently I’ve been sexually attacked. All for a job, putting plates of food in front of people.

On starting my new job in Manchester three weeks ago, I promised myself if this venue didn’t work out then I would call it a day and walk away from the hospitality industry; I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. With my health, the attack and other failed jobs my CV is in desperate need of stability (as am I for my own sanity). Just three weeks of working there was more than enough. It’s weird that on reflection I wasn’t as driven and motivated as I normally am when I start a new role; probably a sign my love for the industry has been tarnished by all my previous experiences. In all honesty, I’m impressed my optimism and passion lasted this long, testament to my resilience and determination to make this work. I was put onto a 60 hour contract without prior consent or consultation (a 48 hour contract with a signature to say you’re happy to work over that dependant on business needs is the norm) and I actually did not ever receive a contract to sign. Despite the 60 hour contract all 3 weeks of working at the venue I reached nearly 80 hours a week, with few breaks and even less food. On my 4th lock up shift in a row, finishing a 17 hour shift with no food or break I set to walk my 7 minutes home on my own at the ridiculous time of 4am. On my way home I was cornered by a group of 3 males who swiftly spread after I set off my rape alarm; I dread to think what would have happened had I not acted in such a way. After what had happened last november, I was inevitably shaken and couldn’t sleep. Once it hit 7am, wide awake, with my next shift due to start at 11am and sleep definitely not on the horizon I messaged the GM to tell him what had happened and I was in no fit state to work. What followed was not a response of concern, apology or care but of blackmail to bully me into going into work that night. Later that day handing my belongings back to the venue I was nearly blamed for the near attack and was told I should have got a taxi. (I’ve just put all of the last of my money on a flat 7 minutes walk away to eliminate the need for wasting money on taxis) In just three weeks of working there I’d lost weight, lost my boobs (the bee stings always go first!), lost my drive for hospitality, my care, and managed to get really poorly from the hours I was doing. It was then I knew what I had to do.

Right now I’m feeling extremes of two things. Immense relief and immense heartbreak. I’ve dedicated and sacrificed so much of my life to hospitality, but it hasn’t treated me kindly at all and much like a long term abusive relationship enough is enough. I have to walk away. Admitting that is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. But at the same time, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Ironically, whilst working in hospitality I’ve struggled to attend food events and markets as they’re always on a weekend which I will now be able to attend. I’ll be able to have the work/life balance I’ve been craving; the ability to work and have an active social life not just sleep on my days off. I’ll be able to see my friends and family, go to gigs and festivals, go on holiday, go to supper clubs and special dining events; I’ll actually be able to explore my passions!! I’ve found in my last few roles, because I’ve been so aware for the need of stability and longevity on my cv and my personal life, I’ve become extremely paranoid about anything going wrong and as such I’ve been making silly mistakes through being over cautious; I’ve been on edge constantly and that’s not the way to be when you apparently love something.

Whilst I am bloody terrified about what the future holds and the prospect of potentially becoming a 9-5 computer monkey, I am excited for finally having full control over my life and not having the powers of a relentless and unforgiving industry control it for me. I am sad to be leaving it in this way, but I think it’s for the best. All things about the hospitality industry are probably the worst things a female of my age with depression and anxiety, who’s just been attacked should be doing. I’m not saying never again, just right now I need a bit of structure, stability and time to do my own thing. I’m hoping to extend my empathy and customer based qualities into a role working for a charity; it may not be as good money starting at the bottom again but to me job satisfaction, stability and work life balance are far more important

Hospitality, the pleasure’s been all mine. Here’s to the new chapter of my life.

Keeping in control

A lot of things have taken hold of my life, turned it upside down that I have had very little or no control of; from redundancies, housemates stealing off me, bad friends, bad relationships, bad jobs, being attacked…all of which have had a negative impact on my mental health and left me repeatedly “getting back on my feet”.  With yet another “fresh start” (most overused and underrated phrase in my life!) looming, a new job and a move back to a city I love, I am doing everything possible to claw back control over my own life and hopefully steadfast me into keeping it that way…..not letting it loose again so easily!  The last thing I need right now is any form of my anxiety or depression to start flickering.

First off the job and the move itself is something I have been in control of.  All too often over the past couple of years, I’ve made career moves I’ve not been 100% happy with but have had to take because it’s been the only offer on the table at the time and I unfortunately don’t have the privilege of being able to afford being unemployed.  This time round I chose the best option for both my career, my personal/social life and my finances from a range of different options; dismissing some very early on in the hope that I’d find something that would perfectly fit…and I have! It’s a brilliant opportunity and driving home from my interview and trial shift the other night I had a silly grin on my face like the kind you get on a giddy loved up first date (you know the one!)  I also know this move will be good – city I have lived in before and feel comfortable in, where I have a lot of friends both in and out of my line of work as well as it only being 40 mins from my folks if I want to come home.  Ticks all the boxes!

Next on the list is being in control of whats going in my body.  Over the years I’ve been prescribed numerous anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, beta-blockers, sedatives, contraceptives, as well as the anti hepatitis and AIDS tablets I was given in November (which made me feel worse than any anti-depressant).  Each one of these has come with their own side affects and left my body confused as to whats going on.  I’ve taken a stance to as much as possible not put any synthetic chemicals into my body.  No painkillers, no anti-depressants (despite the doctors recommendation), and no hormonal based contraception (now using the IUD).  I’m also where possible eating no junk food, processed food or take aways.  Trying to drink as much water, green tea and eat as much fruit and veg as possible.  I’m a lot more aware of where things are coming from and trying my best to buy free range/organic produce across the board.  It’s tough but already I’m feeling such a difference.  I’m also trying my hardest to source natural skincare and make up products too, may as well!

On the theme of being in control of what I’m doing to my body, I’m really trying to exercise.  Even just taking the dogs for a walk and getting some fresh air is really making a difference to my mentality. I’ve downloaded a fab app called Track Yoga which has easy to follow routines and allows me to be competitive with myself.  I’m also about to renew my Headspace app which I’m finding difficult to stick to but I can see is having some benefits to my focus and motivation.  I’ll be more able to develop these areas once I’m in the routine of my new job and settled in my new living space.  I’m also really trying to get back into my reading.  I seem to keep buying a lot of books but not doing a lot with them.

I’ve noticed historically, when I’ve felt like I’ve been losing control on my life, I seem to have gained a piercing or tattoo.  These past few weeks it’s been a very near thing adding my collection of metal bars but as of yet I’ve managed to steer clear of this.  Given I’m technically unemployed still, I’m soon to be commuting 100 miles a day, my car is pretty much illegal and don’t quite know when my next wages will be, I’ve probably got better things to be spending my money on.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so sensible and grown up in my life!  I’m going to start seeing these things as treats rather special-Jen coping mechanisms.  Next wage packet I get, I’ll be heading straight to a piercing shop!

Finally, as mentioned in my previous post I’m having problems with counselling (surprise surprise!) and that my current form of therapy is making the most of the amazing supportive friends I have.  Unfortunately, over the past few months in all the drama that’s gone on a few have fallen by the way side but I think that’s to be expected.  Amazingly though an awful lot of people I’ve not spoken to for years have got in touch which is incredible! As I currently can’t get counselling I’m going to promise myself to make more of an effort with the wonderful people in my life and not just in supporting me but I’m really being as pro-active as possible in helping them in their lives as well.  It’s very easy when you’re going through a tough time to become self absorbed (something I’ve definitely been guilty of before) and I find I’m always very good at letting the black dog talk me out of seeing plans through, so I’m making a stance with myself and vowing to always stick to plans and try to start giving something back to the people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.  Why have one counsellor that I pay when I have a lot for the price of a brew and a cake!

While all of the above are just little simple changes, and a lot of them make common sense, for me it’s not necessarily the changes that I value but the control I’m now having my own life.  It’s made such a difference.  While some things are still very much out of my control, are weighing on my mind and probably will be until the court case is all done and dusted, at least I’ve got the mechanisms in place to hopefully stop my head spinning out.

J x

Keep your head up, keep your heart strong ❤

One of my favourite songs and a big dog walk is what was needed today. Heads been in a bit of a funk and I could have easily hidden under my duvet all day, riddled with anxiety and “the fear” but I’m so pleased I got out. 3 tired dogs, one tired jen, one clearer head.

Definitely earned my brew, packet of biscuits and my book

It’s the little things that make a big difference

J x

Confused Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault? Ask Kesha.

Very topical at the minute with the kesha case

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/kesha-sexual-assault-why-women-dont-come-forward_us_56c77579e4b0928f5a6bcd51

I’ve been prepared by my support officials that in England only half of cases reported make it to court, despite how much its certain something happened it all boils down to evidence. From there only a tiny percentage are actually convicted. At the end of the day its one persons word against another’s.  Despite how horrible it has been reliving the story to so many strangers, going through all the physical examinations, tests, post-attack medication you have to take (that makes you really ill), it’ll all be worth it if a conviction can be made. I wouldn’t be doing all of this if it wasn’t true, all of the humiliation and judgement. I’ve been paranoid about it for months. But the people who commit these horrid crimes cannot be allowed to just walk free. We have to at least try. It’s the least we deserve to retain a bit of self respect and dignity.

J x

The stigma & best form of therapy

I was hoping to do a post about my counselling assessment on Thursday – what would have been my second one because nothings ever easy with me.  I had one in January with a group called “Victim Support” arranged through the police.  While it was positive and they said I’d be bumped up to the top of the waiting list due to my lack of emotional support in the Lakes expecting to hear from them in a few days, I didn’t hear from them for weeks by which time my head had melted and I was back living at my folks.  So I had to start the process again with a different group in Chester.  9am appointment and at 7.30am I had an awkward one line apology email that the counsellor was sick and we’d have to rearrange when she was back.  These things happen, but given its now been 4 months since the incident I’m eager to put some demons to bed and talk it out with professionals.  This is all feeling very reminiscent of when I was running along the conveyer belt trying to get my CBT sorted a few years ago.  Due to lack of funding and support where people need it the most urgently and desperately it’s actually doing more harm than good.  I’ve vowed to myself that when I’m back on my feet I’m going to invest in some private counselling then I know I won’t have these problems (hopefully!)

In the meantime; one thing that has helped me out incredibly is the amount of support I’ve had from friends; close ones who I cannot thank enough for being there every step of the way and others I’ve not spoken to for years.  Just the knowledge that people care; some people I’ve not spoken to for years giving me their phone numbers and offering a chat or a brew, honestly it’s been pretty overwhelming.  In a world where there is so little faith in humanity, especially after an incident such as this has shaken up my trust in people it’s nice to know there’s some gooduns still out there and I can keep that faith.  The people in my life the past few months have been bloody awesome.  Knowing I can speak about things, or not speak about them at all just have a laugh and a joke with people has been incredible help; laughter and friendship really is the best form of therapy.

Now the term “victim support” is something that’s not sat well with me since I was first put in touch with them.  Victim is such a harsh, degrading and demeaning word; as if we’re the ones in the wrong.  It’d be like calling a cancer charity “sufferer support” or “diseased support”.  Chatting about it to one of my friends, he suggested “Survivor support” would be much more appropriate; empowering and liberating the people its meant for and that is what we are, we’re all survivors!  Feels wrong that an institution in place to help people has a name that stigmatises those it’s supposed to be supporting.

One thing I have noticed is the level of stigma and taboo still surrounding sexual attacks.  I’m fairly sure if any of my friends had been attacked in just a violent manner, or had been mugged then it would spoken about quite liberally on social media.  Yet, for some reason this added element changing the nature of the attack is very much avoided; like people are ashamed of what has happened to them.  Something following on from my blog and being so open about my own experiences is an overwhelming amount of people have been in touch with me opening up about their own stories; some people I know and some complete strangers saying it’s given them the courage to talk.  Whilst this is amazing they’ve felt comfortable enough to open up to me, it’s a shame they don’t feel able to talk about it more freely.  Given, I know it’s not the thing to go shouting off the rooftops, but I’m fairly sure if someone had been beaten up by a stranger there would be a campaign to try and find who’d done the damage, pictures of the attack would appear on social media and everyone would rally round their support.  I’m hoping that me talking about things so openly and candidly about my own experience might help others do the same and in turn help break down this stigma surrounding something so awful but so desperately important for people to talk about.  It’s by talking about things, people who’ve experienced this find peace and understanding and is a way for others to offer support maybe in times where professional help is limited.

J x